When Narayan Ghimire was forced to cancel his hotel reservation on the morning of his planned stay, he did not expect any further charges from the hotel. So when the hotel charged his credit card three times the amount of the original reservation, he believed he was a victim of fraud.
But was he?
This case has many lessons, but the most important one is to be clear about the cancellation policy when you book a hotel — especially if you confirm a promotional rate that may have a variety of terms and penalties.
Ghimire booked his one-night stay at Les Résidences du Parc Royal in Montreal through Hotels.com.
“I became the victim of fraud,” he explained. “I was charged after cancellation. Due to a medical emergency I canceled and we called Hotels.com and informed them. I also called the hotel and a person picked up the phone and told me ‘ok.'”
It wasn’t “ok” — as he would soon find out.
Two days later his card was charged in the amount of $584. The original reservation was confirmed at a rate of $189, before taxes.
He then began a campaign against Hotels.com that was, to put it mildly, misguided. He sent letters to various executives in a capitalized font with accusations that were a bit on the extreme side.
“As there are so many organized crime incidents coming forward, it looks like it is deliberately carried out — systematic cheating practice to make money from visitors intended to visit Canada from across the globe,” he surmised. “Please stop this type of fraud and refund my money immediately with compensation. This behavior is damaging to the credibility of Canada across the globe very seriously.”
Ok, it could be something like that — or ….
I thought there could be a less diabolical reason for the charge. So I asked to see his cancellation policy.
I studied it carefully and I discovered some facts that would suggest that this charge was not the result of a global crime syndicate at work — and instead may just be a consumer overlooking the terms of cancellation.
First, Ghimire’s reservation stated that he had reserved a special promotion only valid for Canadian residents. This promotion entitled him to a 62 percent discount off the regular rate. And the penalty for a “no-show” was 100 percent.
When I did the math, it appeared that the hotel charged Ghimire the full rate plus tax and did not apply the promotion. So, I thought something in the fine print of the promotion might allow the hotel to charge the full rate if a traveler is a no-show.
Ghimire did not have a copy of the promotion. So I attempted to reach the hotel for clarification.
Unfortunately, this lodging is not a hotel in the traditional sense. In fact, Hotels.com’s website says that there is no front desk and you must arrange check-in 24 hours prior to arrival. The hotel does not have a website, which further complicated matters.
So I turned my attention to Hotels.com to see if they could shed some light on Ghimire’s problem. A representative of Hotels.com was finally able to reach someone at this hotel, and she was told that this charge was mistaken and that Ghimire could have a refund of the overcharge.
There was just one catch, Ghimire was told that he needed to call the hotel and arrange the refund directly. He again tried to call the hotel. This time, the woman who answered told him that she only spoke French and then hung up on him.
In the end, I recommended that Ghimire pursue a chargeback against this hotel. The owners will be forced to produce the terms of the promotion and give an explanation as to how they determined the charge to his credit card. If they fail to cooperate with the chargeback investigation, Ghimire will likely win.
For its part, Hotels.com offered Ghimire an $80 travel certificate as a peace offering for this negative experience. They point out, however, that Ghimire was considered a “no-show” for this reservation. There is no record of his attempts to cancel on the morning of his stay; therefore, he is responsible to pay for the one night.
When you reserve a hotel online, make sure to read all the terms and the cancellation policy. This can help avoid these types of frustrating situations should your plans change.
Ghimire is still suspicious that this may be part of a larger crime scheme aimed at taking advantage of weary travelers, but he says that he will be more careful in the future when choosing a hotel.